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Police say Arkansas farmer shot in field-spray dispute

by Stephen Steed | October 29, 2016 at 5:23 a.m.

A Mississippi County soybean and cotton farmer was fatally shot Thursday evening after a dispute over the spraying of a herbicide on his fields northwest of Leachville, authorities said.


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Photo by Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Map showing the location of Mississippi County

Allan Curtis Jones, 26, of Arbyrd, Mo., was arrested and faces a first-degree murder charge in the death of Mike Wallace of Monette, said Mississippi County Sheriff Dale Cook. Jones was released from the Mississippi County jail in Luxora on a $150,000 bond Friday afternoon. He will be arraigned Monday in Mississippi County Circuit Court, Cook said.

Deputies were called to West Mississippi County Road 38 north of Leachville about 5 p.m. Thursday, where they found Wallace lying on the road. Cook said Wallace had been shot several times. Cook did not provide Wallace's age.

Police said Jones and Wallace had a dispute over the spraying of chemicals on Wallace's fields by a neighbor that ruined some of Wallace's crops.

Wallace was one of several Arkansas farmers who filed complaints with the state Department of Agriculture's Plant Board this summer alleging that their crops were damaged when neighboring farmers illegally sprayed dicamba, a herbicide that drifts easily and is toxic to soybeans.

Wallace filed complaints with the Plant Board on May 24, June 15 and July 11, claiming damage to three fields -- one north of Leachville where he was killed Thursday, and two other fields closer to his home. Wallace did not name a suspect in two of the three complaints. The farmer named in the third complaint had no connection with Thursday's fatal shooting.

Jones worked for Lonnie Gibson Jr. of Arbyrd, a town of about 500 just north of the Arkansas state line. In May 2015, a Plant Board investigator served a notice of inspection on Jones confirming that dicamba was being sprayed and the applicator was not licensed, as required by state law. Gibson was fined a total of $1,400 for that offense.

Two months later, a Leachville farmer complained that his soybeans were damaged by dicamba drift after Gibson's workers illegally sprayed the herbicide.

Gibson was fined $2,000 and issued a warning.

Jones told authorities that Wallace called him to talk about the spraying Thursday. Jones said he brought his cousin with him as a witness because he "felt like Wallace wanted to fight," Cook said.

According to a police report, Jones told police that when he met with Wallace, Wallace grabbed him by the arm. Jones said he pulled a handgun from his pocket and "shot Wallace until the gun was empty." Jones' cousin, whom Cook did not name, said Jones was backing away from Wallace and had gone behind a vehicle when the shots were fired.

The cousin told police he took a shirt from the vehicle and applied pressure to Wallace's wounds.

Wallace did not have a weapon, Cook said.

The shooting stunned those who knew Wallace.

In Monette, a farming community of 1,981 in eastern Craighead County, talk Friday at the Farmers Feed and Supply on West Drew Avenue was about Wallace, employee Ed Sanders said.

"He came in all the time," Sanders said of Wallace. "I never had a problem with him. We all went to church with him. We're all still in shock."

Tom Barber, a weed scientist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, lamented Wallace's death and its circumstances.

"It's sitting heavily on all of us," he said. "It's just a sad state of affairs.

"Prices are lower, herbicide costs are higher and weeds are tougher," Barber said. "When you are negatively affected by your neighbor, that really stings. That's just piling on, really."

A similar dispute in western Kentucky on Oct. 1 resulted in a fatal shooting. Mark Williams, 49, of Hickman, Ky., died from three gunshot wounds to the chest. William Jamison, 59, of Tiptonville, Tenn., was charged with first-degree murder.

Jamison's attorney, Dennis Null Sr., of Mayfield, Ky., said dicamba spraying was "indirectly" involved in the dispute.

Pat DeFries, a secretary at the First Baptist Church in Monette, said church members are also stunned by Wallace's death. Wallace and his wife supported the church, she said.

"He was a fine man," DeFries said. "Any time the church was raising money for children, he was more than generous."

She said she knew Wallace had problems with his farming neighbors spraying dicamba.

""I still haven't gotten my head wrapped around this. It's very sad."

State Desk on 10/29/2016

Print Headline: Police say farmer shot in field-spray dispute


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